Statement by Farah Ahmed, Chair, Personal Care Products Council Sunscreen Committee In Response to the Environmental Working Group’s 2013 Sunscreen Report

“In a matter of days, Americans will begin the official start of the summer season by celebrating Memorial Day at beaches, pools and parks.  Before they walk outside, we want them to apply sunscreen to protect themselves and their families from the damaging effects of sun exposure.  Sunscreen products, when used as directed and as part of an overall safe sun regimen, are safe and help reduce the risk of skin cancer, premature skin aging, and other damaging effects of the sun.

“Despite the extensive and growing body of credible science demonstrating the safety, efficacy, and health benefits of sunscreens, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) continues to promote false and misleading assertions about sunscreen products and their ingredients.  Once again, the EWG report lacks the rigor and reliability of formal, expert scientific evaluation and is not peer-reviewed. Our concern is that confusing, unsubstantiated claims could actually serve to discourage consumers from using sunscreen on themselves and their children.

“The Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the Skin Cancer Foundation, and health care professionals around the world all emphasize the safety of sunscreens and the importance of their use as part of a safe sun regimen.  The dangers of sun exposure are clear and universally recognized by public health professionals and dermatologists. The National Institutes of Health ‘Report on Carcinogens’ identifies solar UV radiation as a ‘known human carcinogen.’ A single bad burn as a child is known to increase the skin’s susceptibility to damage and skin cancer throughout life.

“Unfortunately, the American public still has a long way to go before we treat sunscreens the way we treat seat belts. We want to get to a place where people are sun smart every time they step out of their door, automatically applying sunscreen – rain or shine, summer or winter – as well as wearing protective clothing and seeking shade when possible.

“Among the many allegations made in the EWG report that contradict scientific consensus is the claim that retinyl palmitate, or vitamin A, is unsafe for use in sunscreen.In fact, retinyl palmitate has been used safely in personal care products, including sunscreen, for many years and is also approved by the FDA for use as a food additive.

“The EWG report also questions the safety of oxybenzone.  Oxybenzone is an FDA approved over-the-counter sunscreen active ingredient.  It provides broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB rays. In addition to the FDA, Health Canada and the European Union Cosmetic Ingredient Authority have approved the use of oxybenzone as a safe and effective sunscreen ingredient. Contrary to EWG’s claims, the global safety profile for oxybenzone is comprehensive and robust, and current scientific research shows no connection between oxybenzone and endocrine or hormone disruption.

“The EWG report raises a question about the safety of sunscreen sprays and powders.  In fact, in its proposed rule, FDA simply requested further information on the use of this unique dosage form and proposed a few labeling changes.  Until FDA makes its final decision, the agency is allowing these important dosage forms to remain on the market.

“EWG’s lack of understanding of SPF is demonstrated in their assertion that SPF refers only to UVB protection.  In fact, an SPF number can account for up to 20% UVA protection, especially in the higher SPF ranges.

“Our goal is to help consumers to make informed decisions, and use sunscreen as an important part of an overall safe sun regimen.  Sunscreen is a crucial step in the fight against skin cancer and premature skin aging. Our hope is that sun protection will become as much of a habit as putting on your seatbelt.”


  • The Journal of Investigative Dermatology published a clinical study with whole body application of a commercial sunscreen product with 10% oxybenzone, no product-related changes to hormone levels were observed. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 123:57–61, 2004.
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – Reviewed and approved oxybenzone as a sunscreen ingredient since 1978 and continues to recognize it as safe and effective.

Statement by Linda Loretz, PhD Chief Toxicologist for the Personal Care Products Council Reaffirming the Safety of Lip Products

“A May 2013 report titled, Concentrations and Potential Health Risks of Metals in Lip Products from the University of California at Berkeley analyzed 32 lip products (lipsticks and lip glosses) to measure levels of nine metals – lead, aluminum, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, manganese, nickel, and titanium.  The report does not provide any new meaningful information. The finding of trace levels of metals in lip products is not unexpected given their natural presence in air, soil and water. Very low levels are also found in drinking water and food.

“The presence of two of the metals (titanium and aluminum) in cosmetics were found at higher levels because they are used as actual ingredients, approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).  While levels of titanium and aluminum were low, they were higher than any of the other analyzed metals. Titanium dioxide is an FDA-approved colorant and widely used in cosmetics, including lipstick and is also a food ingredient.  Aluminum is a common color component used to make the color more stable. The use of aluminum is also approved by FDA for colorant use in cosmetics and in food.

Putting the Studied Metals in Context

“A few of the metals studied in the report are essential nutrients.  Cobalt is essential as a component of vitamin B12, required for the production of red blood cells.  Copper is an essential component of several enzymes. Manganese is required for the growth, development, and maintenance of health, and is present in most tissues of all living organisms.  

“The issue of lead in lipstick has long been studied and has been thoroughly addressed by FDA.  As an example of FDA’s diligence in this area, in 2011 the agency tested 400 different lipsticks across many brands and concluded the low levels of lead that were detected were safe.  FDA stated, ‘Lipstick, as a product intended for topical used with limited absorption, is ingested only in very small quantities. We do not consider the lead levels we found in the lipsticks to be a safety concern.  The lead levels we found are within the limits recommended by other public health authorities for lead in cosmetics, including lipstick.’  Lead levels found by FDA were lower than limits recommended by other public health authorities for lead in cosmetics, including the very conservative limit of 5 parts per million (ppm) set by California under Proposition 65.

“Trace amounts of metals in lip products need to be put into context.  Food is a primary source for many of these naturally present metals, and exposure from lip products is minimal in comparison.  For example, daily trace amounts of chromium or cadmium from lip products basedon the results in this report are less than 1% of daily exposures one would get from their diet.  In the case of manganese, typical daily intake from food is more than 1000-fold greater than the amount from lip products. Metals that are prohibited in the EU are not used as cosmetic ingredients in either the EU or the U.S.

“Cosmetic companies are required by law to substantiate the safety of their products before they are marketed.  Nothing matters more to cosmetic companies than the safety and the well- being of the people who use and enjoy them.”